France Diary of Patron’s Award Winner 2016


The Patron’s Award is proudly sponsored by the
Embassy of France in Malaysia.

Day 1 (26th June 2017)

After traveling for a total of 15 hours (12 hours from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam and transit to Paris), we finally arrived at the in Paris. Upon arrival, my teacher, Jonathan and I took a train that will take us to Maestro Florent Audibert’s residence. Florent Audibert is a renowned cellist in France and I have previously had the opportunity to study with him when he was invited to give masterclass during the 2nd Euroasia Youth Music Festival in 2014. Florent met us at the station with a warm welcome and drove us to his house. Later in the afternoon, Teacher Florent brought me to observe a quartet in rehearsal. The quartet will be performing during the festival. The piece they were playing was Beethoven Symphony No.4 but the work was rearranged to a piano quartet (flute, violin, cello and piano). It was a very meaningful evening to me, I could hear how these musician interpret the music in a different way. After we had our dinner, I got a chance to play for Teacher Florent. I played Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor for him, I received some very useful feedback and comments from him. The day concluded with good music and a lot of laughter. I’m looking forward to everything that I’m going to explore in this trip!

The photo of rehearsal
The quartet performed during the festival

Day 2 (27th June)

After a hearty breakfast with Teacher Florent’s family, we went for practice. It was a long day. I’ve never practice this much before. Wow. I learnt a lot from Teacher Florent today. We talked about bow hold, relaxation, fingering in certain passages and how to avoid unnecessary movement when playing cello. The ideas he gave me were techniques that is frequently neglected by players. I learnt that if I can be mindful of and appreciate small differences in sounds, we can make better musical sense. Later in the day, I played Tchaikovsky Rococo Variation for him. Teacher Florent told me the intonation of 1st and 2nd variation is quite challenging, and I will need to think more before playing the music. The 3rd and 4th variation he had performed in his concert few years ago, so he played for me. After the lesson, teacher Florent gave me his “Jean Louis Duport 21 Etudes” as a gift. This is the book Mr Florent gave me, in this copy of the book, there are many useful notes and fingering patterns written inside.

Day 3 (28th June)

Today we are to travel from Oissel Station (Florent’s place, near Rouen City) to Avignon, this would be a 10 hour journey by car. In between, we stopped by Lyon awhile to take a break. The journey was full of breath-taking scenery. We talked cheerfully on the way to Avignon. Mr Florent told me about life in France and shared with me his curiosity about the multi-cultural environment we have in Malaysia. During the way, I taught Mr Florent some short greeting phrases in English and Malay. Along the drive, we passed paddy fields and a castle called Palais Des Papes. We also saw a half built bridge –Pont Saint Benezet, is a famous medieval bridge in the town of Avignon, in southern France built between 1177 and 1185, to connect Villeneuve and Avignon. This early bridge was destroyed forty years later during the war, it was very costly to maintain as the arches tend to collapse when Rhône flooded. Eventually, the bridge was abandoned in the middle of the 17th century.

Pont Saint Benezet

It was almost time for dinner the time we arrived in Avignon. We had pizza for dinner and stayed the night at the home of one of Teacher Florent’s relatives. Although I didn’t do anything musically related today, I enjoyed meeting the people here in France.

Day 4 (29th June)

Today, we travelled from Avignon to Callian. We reached Callian at about 1 pm and I met a number of wonderful cellists there, including Teacher Florent’s brother, Mr. Frederic. Mr. Frederic has a impressive collection of cellos, and I was very fortunate that he was able to lend me one for the duration of my stay here in Callian. After lunch, Teacher Jonathan and I were shown our accommodation in Callian, it was a very cozy apartment. I did some practice and rested in the apartment until dinner time.

This is Mr Frederic(middle) who lent me his cello during the festival.
The exterior appearance of our apartment

After dinner, I had my first group rehearsal with students and friends of Mr Frederic. Many of them are solo cellist working in some of the biggest orchestras and conservatories in France. We rehearsed an arrangement of “Duport studies No 7” written for 10 cellos. Although this was the first time we make music together but everything went smoothly. It was an unforgettable experience to play with these incredible cellist in France.

Day 5 (30th June)

Today was a challenging day for everyone because we needed to wake up early in the morning to rehearse for an afternoon concert. The concert was held in the church. This was the rehearsal of the free admission children concert. We have about 15 players in total. We play Beethoven’s 7th symphony (arranged by Alain Brunier)  and Die Himmel rühmen. We also play some works of Bach like Aria (BWV1068) and Arioso du concerto pour piano en Fam. There is about 40 to 50 children watched the concert. After lunch, we went back to the same church and played some of our music for the children. That was a free admission concert.

Morning rehearsal time
We played children concert at this church

After the concert, I went back to the apartment and did some individual practice. In the evening, I went to a concert featuring Baroque music performed by two cellists: Christophe Coin and Davit Melkonian. Christophe Coin is a professor in CNSMDP (Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris) who was Florent’s teacher. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to listen to Baroque music played by real Baroque instruments. The sound of baroque instrument — “quiet but with a sweet sharpness”, and I experienced how the sound of gut strings seemed to fit so well in Bach music when compared to our modern instrument which is loud and acoustically overloaded. After hearing the concert, I developed some new ideas in interpreting Baroque music. Next time when I play my own instrument, I’ll try to recall the sound I heard at that time and try to imitate the baroque performance techniques. Today was a very constructive day. I wish I would have the opportunity to play music with these two cellists in the future.

Day 6 (1st July)

This day, I had a very busy morning and afternoon. We had a few hours of rehearsal from morning till afternoon. As soon as we finished our lunch, we rush to another church in the other village to play “Duport studies No 7” arranged for 10 cellos. It was a full house concert!  I really enjoyed every moment in the performance. I didn’t do very much in the evening, but spent time to prepare for a tango workshop for tomorrow morning.

We played “Duport studies No 7” in the church

Day 7 (2nd July)

This morning, something funny happened. I was supposed to only attend the workshop but the person in charge decided to ask me to perform with them. I supposedly already had a very full schedule today as Teacher Florent told me that I’ll have a rehearsal in afternoon for tonight’s concert. I tried to find out ask whether I should follow the original plan but no one answered my calls so I decided to play along with the tango orchestra.

All 15 cellist in Concert

It was amazing! I managed to survive in the unexpected performance. When I went back to the church, I was almost completely worn out – and it was almost time for the scheduled performance! I’m glad I managed to pull through it. We play works of Astor Piazzola (Estasis, Tango, Oblivion, Melancolico Buenos Aires) and popular pieces based on“Invierno Porteno”, La Bordona, Tanguera, Gallo Ciego and some other tango works. I am honoured to be able to perform with 14 amazing cellists – to a full house audience too!

Day 8 (3rd July)

After such a hectic schedule the day before, we rested in the apartment this morning and in the afternoon, I met another amazing cellist, Madam Valerie Aimard, who is currently a cello professor at the Conservatoire Maurice Ravel, and also Lecturer for Cello Pedagogy and Chamber Music at the Conservatoire National Superior for Music and Dance de Paris. Just observing and watching her play cello is so inspiring!

In Frédéric’s house

Tonight, we went for a Musical Fantasy, Madam Valerie Aimand played cello and also mimed using a teddy bear to describe the background of the music. It was an amazing experience, a night full of mystery and laughter, as music, poetry and mime took us travelling subtly from universe to universe, through music, poetry and mime. After the concert, we had a farewell barbeque at a fancy restaurant. I was happy to be able to spend my last night in Callian listening and participating in the most entertaining and inspiring conversations!

Day 9 (4th July)

In the morning , Jonathan and I took a plane from Callian to Paris, the flight took about three hours to reach Paris. In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting two fantastic bow makers – Pierre Nehr and Benjamin Fabre. They were both generous with sharing their knowledge on how to choose good bow with us. For example, he showed me, when we use a bow to hit our hand – and the bow stops vibrating within a short time, it is a good bow. This is because a good bow can transfer vibration very fast. We also talked about the relationship between instrument maker and musician. Some craftsmen, archetiers or lutheirs, don’t play the instrument, they only make it. So, the musician will have to communicate with the maker and let him know what sound quality he want to make. By doing this, the instrument maker can provide better customized services. During the evening, we visited some instrument workshop around the Paris’s town and we met a number of instrument makers, I remain in awe of their contributions to the instrument world. Mr Benjamin brought me and Jonathan to eat dinner. During dinner, Mr Benjamin offered me some advice on furthering my music studies.

Pierre Nehr’s workshop

Day 10 (5th July)

All good things come to an end – today is my last day in France and I made good use of it by visiting some tourist spots – including of course, the Eiffel Tower, and did a bit of shopping. I enjoyed the trip that Jonathan planned. To be honest, I really want to thank Jonathan. He’s been my mentor since I was 6 years old. This first trip to France has been a very amazing trip and experience for me. Having the opportunity to attend this festival has given me a new horizon in my music learning path. I learnt that there is always someone better. So, we need to be humble, tolerable, patience when making music. I’m really appreciate Mr Florent to translate for me, it won’t be that smooth going without his help. I really hope if I have a chance again. I will come back to France again.

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